Unravelling the long-term, locally-heterogenous response of Greenland glaciers observed in archival photography

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We present an approach for extracting quantifiable information from archival aerial photographs to extend the temporal record of change over a region of the central eastern Greenland Ice Sheet. The photographs we use were gathered in the 1930s as part of a surveying expedition, and so they were not acquired with photogrammetric analysis in mind. Nevertheless, we are able to make opportunistic use of this imagery, as well as additional, novel data-sets, to explore changes at ice margins well before the advent of conventional satellite technology. The insights that a longer record of ice margin change bring is crucial for improving our understanding of how glaciers are responding to the changing climate. In addition, our work focuses on a series of relatively small and little studied outlet glaciers from the eastern margin of the Ice Sheet. We show that whilst air and sea surface temperatures are important controls on the rates at which these ice masses change, there is also significant heterogeneity in their responses, with non-climatic controls (such as the role of bathymetry in front of calving margins) being extremely important. In general, there is often a tendency to focus either on changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet as a whole, or on regional variations. Here, we suggest that even this approach masks important variability, and full understanding of the behaviour and response of the Ice Sheet requires us to consider changes that are taking place at the scale of individual glaciers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberTC-2021-256
Number of pages32
JournalThe Cryosphere
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2022

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